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Thailand is now firmly established as one of the world's top tourist destinations. Why? Diverse ethnic tribes, idyllic beaches, beautiful diving and warm welcoming people all combine to make Thailand truly The Land of Smiles. As well as the colourful tropical marine life and spectacular island scenery, whale sharks and manta ray encounters are the chief drawcard here, but often at locations uncomfortably far from the mainland, making liveaboard cruises the best choice.

Map of Thailand (click to enlarge in a new window)

Thailand is not known for ripping currents that only the very experienced and physically strong can deal with. Instead, the type of scuba diving you can expect on a Thailand liveaboard is suitable to people of all ages and experience levels, from open water students to experienced, well-travelled, expert divers. 4 dives per day is the norm here, but you don't have to make them all if you prefer to do less!

The diving tours here can be as short or as long as you wish. You can choose safaris ranging from 2 to 12 days. The flexibility and affordability of these charters mean they are popular with those who want to do some diving as part of a travel plan that includes other activities. The low charges for rental gear also mean visitors can travel without the need to bring heavy dive bags with them. Non-divers are welcome to join their diving friends on short liveaboards from Phuket to the Similan Islands and they will still have plenty of time for all the amazing overland activities that Thailand offers.

And this too is what makes Thailand a great choice - there are simply so many fun things to do here - explore scenic islands and fabulous beaches, explore the national parks, mountains, jungle and waterfalls, visit fascinating temples and palaces, or sample its wonderful cuisine and lively nightlife. Thailand is the 'Gateway to Asia' for many airlines so, although these beautiful islands and beaches seem like a remote tropical paradise, they are still easy to get to.


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Diving Cruise Options

We recommend liveaboards that operate in the Andaman Sea on Thailand's west coast where the country's best diving is located. Most trips depart from or near Phuket - Thailand's most popular tourist destination and an ideal base for fun-loving scuba divers. Check out your options:


The Similans route is covered by a variety of liveaboards catering to all budget levels, from deluxe to backpacker standard. The more expensive boats provide high levels of comfort and service and these are recommended for divers with international liveaboard experience. The low priced options attract younger and less-experienced divers. At this end of the market you can also find boats that are permanently stationed at the Similans and guests are transferred on and off the boat by speedboat shuttle on a daily basis.

Divers are expected to have a moderate experience level as some of the sites are deep and strong current may be present.

If you are short of time, the tour route provides a great short alternative to the Similan Islands. But if you want to see all the best scuba diving that Thailand has to offer, you should add on a liveaboard safari to Hin Daeng-Hin Muang to your Similan charter. Divers should have a moderate level of experience to visit this destination due to depth and occasional strong currents.

These cruises are for those visiting Thailand in the green/low season. They run for either 1 or 4 nights and are suitable for scuba divers of any experience level.


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Key Travel Facts

The Climate and Best Time to Visit

Thailand is hot and tropical (27-29°C) throughout the year, with the hottest months being March to May and the monsoon winds dictating the rain patterns. In the Andaman Sea, the dry season runs from November to the end of April. This is the time when the seas are calmest and corresponds with the season for liveaboards. February to April is a particularly popular period since this is the prime time to see whale sharks and mantas in the area.

The Green season runs from May to October and this time sees the most rain, with the wettest month often being October. During this period (June to September) there are a number of liveaboard boats that run tours to the best of the Phuket and Phi Phi Island dive sites.

Water temperature is usually 27-30°C through the year. You can find more details on our Thailand diving destinations page.

Ports of Departure and How to Get There

We recommend you take out insurance to cover diving and travel activities, including trip cancellation. See our insurance programme for a competitive price:

Get your travel and diving insurance from World Nomads

Tourist Visas

Places to Stay

If you plan on staying in Thailand before or after your diving safari, you'll find a huge range of accommodation options on hotelscombined.com's website, our affiliated hotel reservation specialist. Browse their website to find options that you're interested in, use their on-line chat to seek answers to your questions, and then simply use your credit card to make your booking:

Save on your hotel - www.hotelscombined.com

Every booking carries their 'Low Price Guarantee' to ensure you always get the best value for money.

If you prefer, it's possible to dive at most of the sites in the Andaman Sea by staying at a resort and making daily trips, from: Phuket, Phi Phi Islands or Khao Lak.

Visitor Health

Most common health issues are caused by contaminated food, water and ice that can lead to diarrhoea, dehydration and hepatitis A or E. Make sure you only drink bottled drinking water, not tap water. Fungal infections are also very common. The best way to avoid these is to wear loose clothes, and wash and dry yourself frequently and thoroughly.

Dengue fever, a mosquito borne disease, is prevalent but not common in Thailand. Symptoms are a thumping headache and fever that will keep you in bed for a week. Unfortunately there are no inoculations so the best form of defence is a good mosquito repellent.

Some remote areas of the country also have malaria but most urban and tourist areas are free from this scourge. Rabies is also present so do not take a risk if you get bitten by an animal; you will need to get jabs immediately. Rabies is treatable if you act quickly, but it cannot be cured once symptoms appear.

Phuket has some international-standard private hospitals and good state run medical centres.

Tourist Security and Safety

However, like anywhere, there is crime. If you are aware and show the proper caution, you should enjoy a safe stay. Crimes of violence against tourists are rare but there are occasional bag snatchings, so try to carry your bag securely and keep your valuables in a safe place. Pickpockets may operate in crowded areas such as markets and public transport.

Thailand is one of the friendliest and safest travel destinations in the world. Dive The World's staff has travelled extensively to all its dive destinations and has never experienced any security concerns. Each year, millions of tourists enjoy trouble-free vacations in Thailand, including single female travellers and young backpackers. There is a competent tourist police network around the country that speaks English and help foreigner visitors who run into problems during their stay.

Crimes against tourists are rare and tend to involve deception - Thais are more likely to scam you than threaten you, selling you beautiful jewellery or brand name watches - knock-offs at knock-down prices. Heed the usual travel advice and you should be fine - be street-smart and aware; do not trust strangers who approach you with fantastical deals; try to avoid immediately falling in love with the first boy/girl you meet.

Though it is fairly rare, petty pilfering is also an experience best avoided. Keep your valuables in a safe place as hotel staff have been known to steal property from guest bedrooms.

There is unrest in the 3 southern provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, and there have been bombs and shootings in that region. However, the troubles have never spread to the tourist areas and we advise you to stay away from the deep south if possible.

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Useful Tips for Tourists

Sightseeing, Activities and Adventure

Lionfish are found throughout the liveaboard dive sites of Thailand - photo courtesy of Marcel Widmer - Seasidepix.com

There is a vast array of options of things to do for visitors to Thailand. Many people like to drink in the cultural sites, including the Grand Palace and Wat Prakaew in Bangkok, or visit the ancient capital Ayutthaya. Others include a trek in the mountains of Chiang Mai/Chiang Rai to visit remote hill-tribes. Chiang Mai, like much of Thailand, offers great opportunities for you to learn the intricacies of Thai cuisine. Imagine impressing your friends back home with a killer Thai red curry.

For those visiting the beaches and islands, many opt for a day out of sea kayaking around the beautiful Phang Nga Bay. Waterskiing, sailing, rock-climbing and trekking are other activities that you can enjoy in the popular tourist areas when not under the waves. Thailand's nightlife is also worthy of note, with places like Bangkok, Patong (in Phuket) and Pattaya being among the most lively examples of its own particular brand of nightlife.

Time Zones

Thailand has a single time zone, being +7 hrs GMT, or +12 hrs EST.

Electricity

The mains electricity in Thailand is 220 volts AC. The standard plugs and sockets are the flat or round 2-pin variety, both in hotels and on the Phuket liveaboard boats. Most international plug adaptors should work or you can buy one locally. There are occasional power cuts, especially in rainy season.

Communications

There are many internet cafes in most parts of Thailand, and these days most hotels have wifi - either in-room or in the public areas.

The telephone country code for Thailand is +66. If you want to call overseas from here, the international direct dialling code is 001 + country code + area code + phone number. It is easy and inexpensive to buy prepaid SIM cards here, and mobile roaming services are available.

The Thai postal service is not very reliable so any valuable or important items should be sent by registered delivery. Post offices are open from 9 am to 3:30 pm. Private courier services such as UPS and DHL are also present throughout the country.

Codes of Behaviour

The cultural norms of Thailand can seem surprising to some on first encounter but thankfully Thais are quite tolerant towards (or at least keep silent about) foreigners who are ignorant of their ways. However, being aware of and respecting some of their values will make a good impression. Above all, it is important to show respect for the monarchy who is held in high esteem, not least because it is a criminal offence to defame or insult the king or queen.

Buddhism is the most popular religion in Thailand and you should act and dress respectfully when visiting temples and Buddha statues. Shorts, sleeveless shirts and dresses/skirts cut above the knee are frowned upon. Remove your shoes before entering a temple or house. Monks are figures of respect and it is forbidden for a woman to touch one.

Spiritually, the feet are regarded by Thais to be the lowest part of the body. It is considered rude to point your feet towards people or revered objects, and you should avoid stepping over people. Sit cross-legged or with the soles of your feet pointing downwards. Likewise, the head is the most important part of the body and you should not touch a Thai on the head.

Tipping and bargaining

Tipping is not a Thai tradition but it has become prevalent in tourist areas in recent years. Leaving a small amount for good service can be a nice gesture, particularly for low paid staff, including those that work on the Similan liveaboard boats.

Bargaining is part of the shopping experience and is expected at nearly all independent businesses in Thailand. There is an art to haggling and you should always deal in a light-hearted manner, preferably with a smile. Knowing some of the important words of negotiation in the Thai language will also help. Thais will normally drop their asking price very quickly but will also know their own limit. Be prepared to walk away if you feel that you are not getting a good deal, may be called back with a better offer!

Note: prices are fixed at places like supermarkets, department stores, pharmacies, large hotels, restaurants, bars, public services, etc.

Clothing

Thailand is a hot and humid country so light, loose clothing is worn by most. Tight dresses, miniskirts and shorts are all acceptable when you go out at night. However, naked sunbathing is illegal, and you should always wear a shirt in public places other than a beach or swimming pool.

Officialdom

If you are involved in an incident then a respectful attitude towards the police is a must. They will not respond well to insults, loud or aggressive behaviour so stay calm and polite. Any expression of anger will likely lose their cooperation and count against you.

Unfortunately corruption is widespread in the Thai police force and bribes are considered a perk of the job by many. You may find buying off an offence to be convenient if you are in trouble but remember that the other party may be willing to pay more! Don't expect justice to occur seamlessly. Stand your ground if you feel you're getting a raw deal, make a show of recording the officer's ID and insist on speaking to a higher ranking officer.

Minor traffic offences such as not having your driving license on you or not wearing a helmet will get you a small on the spot fine. Parking on the wrong side of the road will get your bike or car chained up and another fine. The trick is to know which side of the road to park on. Just look to see where everyone else has parked and park on that side of the road.

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Useful References for Thailand



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